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2011-10-10

South Africa (ZA)   A week at Ngwenya Lodge, Southern Kruger National Park  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 04:48:12 pm

Winter Birding - Ngwenya Lodge, Mpumalanga - 13 to 19 August 2011

After a hectic first half of the year, nothing like a break in the African bush to re-charge your soul. This year, we spent a week at our timeshare in Ngwenya Lodge (http://www.ngwenya.co.za/NGW/ngw.htm), situated on the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park, with our Unit overlooking the Crocodile River - bliss! Images by Mike Pope


13 AUG 2011
We had a comfortable drive from Johannesburg to Ngwenya dropping down from the chilly highveld into the more temperate loweveld in and around Komatiepoort. During the check-in formalities, I found a Spotted Flycatcher which appears to have over-wintered as these species are only now migrating through Kuwait.

Spotted Flycatcher

Foraging around the bottom of a shrub, was the normally shy Green-backed Camaroptera.

Green-backed Camaroptera

After unpacking the car and getting sorted in our Unit we relaxed over lunch and later in the afternoon had a stroll around the Lodge gardens finding a few old 'friends' like Dark-capped Bulbul

Dark-capped Bulbul

Lesser Masked Weaver, still in winter or non-breeding plumage - although I did observe some nest building action

Lesser Masked Weaver

Although I was rusty on some calls, that of the African Green Pigeon was instantly recognisable

African Green Pigeon

At the small lake near the restaurant, a White-breasted Cormorant was seen

White-breasted Cormorant

Looking out over the Crocodile River at the restaurant, a Nile Crocodile was catching the last rays of the day

Nile Crocodile

As we got to our Unit, a small flock of Red Helmet Shrikes made a brief appearance

Red Helmet Shrike

14 AUG 2011
As the weather was great, we decided to spend the first day enjoying the Lodge and relaxing on our balconey overlooking the Crocodile River and we were rewarded with a great Lion sighting soon after waking up as a small pride wandered aloing the river bank

Male Lion

Birds that were flying up and down the river included; White-breasted Cormorant

White-breasted Cormorant

The smaller Reed Cormorant

Reed Cormorant

and many Egyptian Geese

Egyptian Goose

in the thermals above the river, we had juvenile African Fish Eagle calling

African Fish Eagle

in the scrub in and around our unit, I found a foraging Speckled Mousebird

Speckled Mousebird

the smart looking Spectacled Weaver

Spectacled Weaver

and a tatty looking Cape Weaver in transition plumage

Cape Weaver

and an African Mourning Dove which is not normally found this far south in the Kruger Park

African Mourning Dove

after a lazy breakfast my son Jaden and I went for a walk around the grounds, finding a secretive Tambourine Dove

Tambourine Dove

and an Ashy Flycatcher

Ashy Flycatcher

a stunning male Collared Sunbird was quite obliging in the coolness of the morning, not quite as much when the temperatures pick up later in the day

Collared Sunbird

Collared Sunbird

at this time of year, many of the Aloe's are in flower and many species of birds were seen feeding on the flowering blooms. The yellow of the flowers rubbing off on the feathers of their heads - here a Dark-capped Bulbul enjoying the nectar from the Aloe

Dark-capped Bulbul

at the small dam near the restaurant, an African Darter was sunning itself on the dead tree

African Darter

I had found a Water Monitor late yesterday that Jaden really wanted to see. At this time of the morning it was still sunning itself on the bank of the small dam and Jaden got up close and personal

Water Monitor

Water Monitor

on the way back to our Unit, Jaden spotted a Kurrichane Thrush at the base of an acacia tree

Kurrichane Thrush

2011-09-20

South Africa (ZA)   Zaagkuildrift and Seringveld  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 01:09:10 pm

Winter Birding - Zaagkuidrift and Seringveld, Gauteng - August 2011

Whilst on our break in South Africa, I had arranged to meet up with my good friend Simon Price who I had met in Kuwait, but had since re-located back to South Africa. We spent a productive and enjoyable morning together and chose the Zaagkuildrfit to Kgomo-Kgomo route north of Pretoria - in my opinion, one of the best birding roads in Gauteng. Images by Mike Pope


We were at the start of the route, not too long after sun-up and spent some quality time at one of the small pans. There was definitely a feeling of Spring in the air, with early buds showing on trees and birds actively starting to show breeding behaviour. Walking slowly through the bush, we came across a rather obliging Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou

Southern Boubou

With a Rattling Cisticola calling nearby

Rattling Cisticola

moving slowly toward the edge of the pan, we observed African Jacana's as they foraged on the floating vegetation - easily done with those extremely long toes

African Jacana

African Jacana

African Jacana

A few duck species were seen on the dam, but only this flock of Red-billed Teals came close enough for a photograph

Red-billed Teal

Red-billed Teal

A single White-winged Tern was also observed hawking over the water

White-winged Tern

Walking back to the car, we flushed a Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler

Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler

Driving westward along the dirt road with frequent stops also produced Crimson Boubou; a really striking bird in the drab winter bush with a call to match it's appearance

Crimson Boubou

a couple of Kalahari Scrub Robins

Kalahari Scrub Robin

and a pair of Marsh Owls flying back to find a roost for the day

Marsh Owl

Some Waxbills were seen foraging on the edge of the road, one of them this female Violet-eared Waxbill. Unfortunately the spectacular male didnt stay long enough for his picture

Violet-eared Waxbill

Just before the Kgomo-Kgomo floodplain (still dry at this time of year), we finally managed to get onto a Magpie Shrike that didnt fly off when we stopped

Magpie Shrike

Magpie Shrike

On and around the floodplain we ticked, African Pipit

African Pipit

a striking Capped Wheatear, which normally disappear after winter

Capped Wheatear

Kitlitz Plover

Kitlitz Plover

Lilac-breasted Roller, probably one of the most photographed birds in the Kruger National Park

Lilac-breasted Roller

and an Ovambo Sparrowhawk that had stopped for a drink

Ovambo Sparrowhawk

Viewing the floodplain from the bridge produced White-throated Swallow

White-throated Swallow

As it happens in birding, time does get away from you so we drove slowly eastward back to the main road, finding a wing-tagged Cape Vulture that was being harrassed by a flock of Pied Crows

Cape Vulture

Cape Vulture

On the way back to Midrand, we decided to stop at the Seringveld, a unique broad-leave woodland habitat on the outskirts of Pretoria that holds some key species. Unfortunately, we were only able to find one of them (perhaps a little too early in the season for the others) - but Green-capped Eremomela is still a good bird, albeit a very busy bird gleening quickly through the foliage. After exhausting this patch, we reluctantly headed back and I truly appreciated the variety, calls and numbers seen this morning, in comparison to the barreness of Kuwait

Green-capped Eremomela

Green-capped Eremomela

Green-capped Eremomela

2011-09-15

South Africa (ZA)   Summer to Winter break in South Africa  -  Categories: South Africa  -  @ 03:34:07 pm

A few weeks of winter in South Africa - Midrand, Gauteng - August 2011

After the draining and exhaustive summer heat of Kuwait, the cold Highveld winter of Gauteng was more than a welcome relief for our summer break. Birds in this post are the more common urban birds during winter and were taken in the garden and whilst walking our Staffies with my Son, Jaden. Images by Mike Pope


Karoo Thrush are very common in the garden in early morning and late afternoon - also when we feed our dogs where they wait on the fringes for the dogs to finish eating

Karoo Thrush

Cape Robin-chat is another garden skulker that also sings from cover, but this individual was not very obliging for photographs

Cape Robin-chat

The male Cape Sparrow is quite a stiking bird, but generally overlooked as it is very common

Cape Sparrow

At this time of year (late Winter/early Spring), Southern Masked Weavers are mostly in full breeding regalia and have started nest building

Southern Masked Weaver

Southern Masked Weaver

Walking the dogs outside of our townhouse complex provided a little more variety. Streaky-headed Seedeaters calling from the treetops

Streaky-headed Seedeater

Small flocks on winter plumaged Southern Red Bishops

Cape Sparrow

The aggressive Fiscal Shrike

Fiscal Shrike

and the very similar looking Fiscal Flycatcher, but these are normally seen in pairs and are much more delicate in build

Fiscal Flycatcher

Not quite as urbanised as the Red-eyed Dove, but the odd Cape Turtle Dove was seen foraging on the pavements

Cape Turtle Dove

Crowned Lapwings were also seen on the pavements and are generally quite oblivious to the passing cars

Crowned Lapwing

A few Cape Glossy Starlings were seen infrequently

Cape Glossy Starling

Some of the larger trees on the pavement were started to bud with the advent of Spring and many Cape White-eyes were seen foraging in these trees

Cape White-eye

Together with the dimunitive Black-throated Canaries

Black-throated Canary

Black-throated Canary

During a few late afternoons I sat on the upstairs patio and still had some enoyable birding - especially enjoying the calls, which we dont often hear in Kuwait. A male Laughing Dove calling from a rooftop

Laughing Dove

As well as the larger male Red-eyed Dove calling from a different rooftop

Red-eyed Dove

Here a Crested Barbet in the dying sunlight

Crested Barbet

An African Sacred Ibis flying to it's overnight roost

African Sacred Ibis

And not too much later, the magnificent splendour of another winter African sunset - I am a sucker for sunsets and never get tired photographing them

Southern African Sunset

2011-08-13

Wales (UK)   a few extras but dull horrible and overcast  -  Categories: UK  -  @ 18:08:07

finding the weather hard work - when its not raining the sun don't shine
Stonechat
Stonechat
.
Stonechat

Whitethroat
Whitethroat

Wood Pigeon
c

Linnets
Linnets

2011-08-07

Wales (UK)   In the UK  -  Categories: UK  -  @ 11:17:50

Weather and family commitments prevent me just popping out to bird - however I still always have my camera near so If I see anything I remain click happy
Kestrel
Kestrel
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow
Gold Finch
Gold Finch
Green Finch
Green Finch
Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler
Herring Gulls
Herring Gulls

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